the shape of leadership

Sharing the Message Through Music

A conversation with Kurtis Parks

Kristi Northup on February 12, 2020

Kurtis Parks started leading worship in the church his father had planted when he was just 14 years old. That led to many years of wrestling with whether to be an entertainer or a worship leader.

After traveling and appearing on American Idol, he was on the brink of signing a recording contract. But Parks sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to him, saying, “This is not the path you are supposed to go down.”

Parks walked away, and God began to open doors for him to pursue worship ministry.

Not long after, Parks became the worship director at National Community Church (Assemblies of God) in Washington, D.C., led by pastor and New York Times best-selling author Mark Batterson. They crafted a culture of songwriting around the messages, which created the content for seven worship albums.

Recently, Parks — along with his wife, Sarah, and their two children — took a leap of faith and planted Bridges Nashville (AG) in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee. They’ve introduced the community to a new way of doing church through music and song.

“Our vision statement is ‘Where God’s presence and His people connect,’” Parks says. “That’s been at the center of everything.”

There is an abundance of great performance and production in Music City, but Parks says it can be challenging to get people to pour out their hearts to God in an authentic way.
“Message plus music equals memory.”
— Kurtis Parks

Parks is passionate about sharing Christ through music. He sees biblical support for this in passages like Colossians 3:16: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

“I think about a song like ‘Be Thou My Vision,’ and it’s been around for over 1,000 years,” Parks says. “The message has not been forgotten because we sing it, and we remember it.”

Parks summarizes his ministry philosophy this way: “Message plus music equals memory.”

Bridges meets at Nashville’s No. 1 songwriting venue, The Listening Room Cafe, where country songwriters perform six nights a week. Amazingly, God opened the door for the church to use the facility on Sundays.

“We open with four songs, during which we do two teaching moments,” Parks says. “This is followed by a message that is like a TED talk, lasting 16 to 18 minutes. Then we have a response song that goes with the talk.

“After that, we have what we call Selah. It’s a quiet, contemplative time in God’s presence that builds. We have Scriptures on the screen and a prayer team off to the side. We receive Communion every week. The worship builds to the end. It’s tied in to everything we do.”

Bridges is reaching artists and musicians, songwriters and creatives. Parks and his team are sharing the Word of God through a medium they love and understand.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2020 edition of Influence magazine.

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